Councils told to revolutionise self-service strategies

Councils will struggle to meet their targets of offering more than twice as many of their services as digital self-service by 2019 without “radical” change, GOSS Interactive has said.

As more users want access on their mobiles, councils are told to revolutionise their self-service strategies – Photo credit: Pexels

A survey carried out by the company, which delivers web and digital self-service technologies, found that respondents expected to move 62% of their services online by 2019. At the moment, just 26% are digital self-service.

The survey indicated that more than half – 56% – had a self-service strategy in place, which most often belonged within the customer contact or digital strategy.

However, Rob McCarthy, the chief executive of GOSS Interactive, said that councils would need to “radically revolutionise” their approaches to moving services online if they are to succeed.

At the moment, the survey said, more than half of organisations – 54% – are taking an ‘evolutionary’ approach, which involves moving services online one at a time with departments choosing different technical solutions.

Despite this being lower risk, McCarthy said that it “just won’t be enough to meet the expected growth rate of digital self-service” because of long-term issues managing services and customer experience across different platforms.

A revolutionary approach, which involves developing a single digital platform with all services being migrated to digital channels, was favoured by 46% of respondents. McCarthy said that although it may require larger initial investments, can realise faster and more consistent returns, McCarthy said.

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The survey also asked respondents to pick out the barriers preventing the roll-out of self-service, which included the need to redevelop digital processes and to improve channels, for instance thorough user-centred design.

Other concerns were the importance of gaining managerial buy-in for the work, which the survey report said was crucial for success, echoing calls from various representative bodies in the sector for engagement at the most senior level.

“Once the whole organisation is striving for the same goal, you can then understand where you are with transformation and plan out what can be achieved, making a business case for change,” the report said. “Many organisations benefit from workshops led by specialists to help bring senior management and services together around common objectives

Customer comes first

The survey also looked at the benefits of moving services online, finding that most organisations – 72% – felt customers would be the main beneficiaries. Benefits include access to services out of hours, access to services on the move and making it easier to find the relevant information.

As such, the company’s report recommends that councils focus on creating a mobile first approach to ensure the maximum take up of digital self-service – adding more weight to pressure for councils to put more thought into designing effective user-led research strategies.

However, a quarter said the main beneficiary would be the organisation itself, saying that it would help them cut down manual processing and reduce costs.

On average, managers said they expected to save just under £900,000 in the next 12 months through digital self-service. Most managers – around 50% – said it would be up to £250,000 while around 10% said they would save between £1 million and £3m. Less than 10% of respondents felt they would save more than £3m.

But McCarthy also noted that the recent vote to leave the EU could put more financial pressures on councils, as it is not yet clear if the government will replace European funding.

“The public sector must take action now in order to meet the budgetary challenges it’s facing while keeping the vital public services it delivers operational,” he said.

The survey took in the views of 406 managers at more than 290 public sector organisations.


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